A woman with cancer was told that she should get rid of her two cats. She is battling cancer for the third time. She is receiving chemotherapy. The medical personnel there have urged her to get rid of her cats. They say that they are a danger to her health. This must be distressing for her.
The reason given is that chemotherapy causes damage to the body’s immune system. White blood cells, the cells that fight disease, can be damaged by chemotherapy. Medics also advised that people undergoing chemotherapy should avoid infectious agents as best as possible.
They consider, therefore, the domestic cat an infectious agent because there are some diseases that can be transmitted from cats to humans (zoonotic diseases). Invariably they referred to the best-known, which is toxoplasmosis, a protozoan infection. Lots has been spoken about toxoplasmosis.
However, most veterinarians would say that e.g. pregnant women do not need to get rid of their domestic cat because the possibility of an infection of toxoplasmosis from their cat is very low indeed if reasonable precautions are taken. I’ve discussed this on another page so I won’t do it again here. Therefore this is about taking precautions.
The medics treating this lady say that cat bites and scratches can be serious to someone with an immune system that is compromised. They would say that if one of her cats scratches her it could be a problem. I have to comment on that. I agree that with a weakened immune system a cat bite is more likely to become infected but there are whole range of variables which dictate whether a cat bite does or does not become infected and they can be treated with antibiotics anyway. And also one can take special precautions.
There must be a better solution. By simply taking sensible precautions I would advise this lady to keep her cats. I wouldn’t take the advice of these medics who are treating her with chemotherapy. Let’s think about it. It’s about risk and reward. There are risks in keeping cats with a weakened immune system. I agree that. But there are tremendous rewards in having cat companions especially if you’ve lived with them for a long time.
To remove them from your life at a time when you’re vulnerable and quite likely to be down, is more likely to be detrimental to one’s well-being than the risk one takes in continuing to live with your cats under these trying circumstances.
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